Sometimes, it just does not work out. We go through life waiting and searching for the “one”. Then we spend countless hours planning a wedding and mapping out every detail of our future.
Unfortunately, life has its own plans and often we are placed in situations that we did not prepare for. We are all familiar with the concept of finding a prince or princess, saying “I do”
and then living happily ever after. In some cases, the happily ever after begins when couples say, “I don’t anymore.” Agreeing to end a marriage can be a daunting and traumatic experience. The good news is that not every couple has to resort to an extremely contentious divorce. There are alternatives to a traditional courtroom divorce that may be right for you.
Before you begin any divorce proceedings, it is imperative to have the mindset that every marriage and every divorce is different. The most common form of divorce proceedings is litigation. But there are two main alternatives to litigation: 1) Mediation and 2) Collaborative Divorce.
In a divorce mediation, an unbiased and experienced mediator assists the couple in reaching an agreement. Usually, after the divorce petition has been filed either party can ask the judge to order mediation, or the judge may decide to order mediation on their own. Some courts require every divorce case to try mediation. If mediation does not work then the divorce will be referred back to court for the normal litigation process. The main difference between a mediator and an attorney is that a mediator is unbiased and cannot advocate on behalf of either party. However, you will need to consult with your own attorney prior to finalizing any divorce agreement even if an amicable agreement is reached through mediation. We strongly suggest that even if mediation is the option you wish to pursue that each party to the divorce have their attorney present during mediation. Because the mediator cannot advocate for you it is important to have someone that is knowledgeable about your rights and able to advocate for you to be present.
Mediation is often a good fit for those who have children because it will not be as terrifying to them as an adversarial in court litigation can be. Mediation also helps the couple have control over the divorce because they are deciding the terms to the divorce instead of a judge, who does not know you. Mediation is a more amicable and informal way of resolving differences and a less expensive option than litigation. There are also several options outside of standard parenting and possession plans that can be agreed to in mediation that are not even taken into considered in typical courtroom divorce cases. Often mediation is a great option for those who work night shifts or have jobs that require them to be on call because the possession schedule can be customized to their needs.
Collaborative divorce is when couples agree to come to an agreement without the formality of a litigation court process. This form of divorce is fruitful for situations where assets are significant and complex. This process is generally faster and less expensive than litigation. During the process, each spouse hires an attorney to represent them and assists them in negotiating a settlement agreement. During this process, couples may hire financial planners, therapists, and any other professionals you may need to help assist you in forming a healthy future for yourself and for your children.
While the alternatives to divorce can be less expensive and less time consuming, it may not be the right option for you. It is important to ask yourself whether you think your spouse is likely to hide assets or if there is a history of abuse or if custody is going to be a contentious issue. If you feel like there are fundamental differences in how you see what the other is entitled to then these alternatives may not work. But often times even when couples think mediation or collaborative divorce will not work they find that they are in fact able to resolve their disputes without the need for an adversarial trial based process.
If you need help assessing which path to take, contact us and let us help you decide the best way for you to proceed. Let the attorneys LaSusa & Deb help you build a stronger future.